Monday, April 27, 2009

More Israeli Genius: 40% Better Gas Mileage

An Israeli teen has conceived and developed a new device that improves gas mileage by as much as a whopping 40% and cuts emissions as well. The device can be very easily retro-fitted into most gas and diesel powered vehicles apparently and reportedly boosts engine horsepower as an added benefit. Great news on the conservation front that can help to push the cost of gas lower by reducing demand. Maybe someone can figure out a way to keep the device out of Iranian hands while they are busy shouting "Death to Israel". Gas shortages are our friend in their corner of the world.

Update 28 April 2009
I am now wondering if this technology could be adapted to home heating. Many homes in the northeastern U.S., more percentage-wise than any other area of the country, use fuel oil for heat. If so, huge savings could be obtained, and possibly more B.T.U.'s could be extracted per gallon of oil burned in the the home heating market. This could be another frontier of engineering exploration. The entire notion of "peak oil" may have just gotten smacked by a new consumption paradigm.

Update 15 July 2009
The product is now being marketed by the Z5 Global Group . Here is the company website. Here is a recent article with more on the inventor and his invention.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why is Nancy Nervous?

John Kerry, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, has just returned from a fact-finding mission in Pakistan, his timely and worrisome observations challenging President Obama's bellicose but confused Af/Pak policies, while trying to come off as helpful. At home, the country is in a furor over the President's declaration that there could be criminal prosecutions of some Bush era officials based upon the new and improved "torture" policies, contravening his own chief-of-staff and Director of National Intelligence.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, former ranking Democrat of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and as Speaker, the 3rd highest Constitutional Officer of the U.S. government, is backpedaling furiously onto the ropes over the same subject, attempting to defend herself from allegations that she had been advised in sub-committee of the secret details of the torture techniques and the policy approach to using them, and had legitimized their use by the CIA (however tacitly). That she chooses to respond to pointed questions by anxiously and nervously defending herself (to her base, no less), is the most telling aspect of her reaction.

That the President might not be displeased by this turn of events should be considered a good bit more than possible. The size and of complexion of the stimulus legislation, for which the President has been roundly criticized even by members of his own party, was composed and packaged by the most left-leaning of the Congressional Democrats, and led by Nancy Pelosi. The Speaker has shown herself to be feisty when it comes to standing up to the Obama White House. Though she leads the left wing of her party, she is not particularly well-liked by her colleagues in the House. Further, were she to fall the chances are slim that her successor as Speaker would be as far to the left as she. Whoever succeeds her leadership among House progressives is not likely to occupy the Speaker's chair. Conceivably she could lose her credibility with the left and yet retain the Speakership. However, if the left's protection of her falls away for this cause, coupled with her role in the Harman wiretapping incident and they begin gnawing at her, she will also be punished by them. As for President Obama, at this point in his career the Community-Organizer-in-Chief no longer requires the brokering services Nancy Pelosi provided him with the bellwether San Francisco Democrats, or with progressives in general.

With Pelosi moved to the sidelines and out of his way, a more Obama-compliant cadre of house leadership will emerge--and she won't be calling in the plays from the left. How this resolves remains to be seen. If questioned about torture-gate on what he knew and when he knew it, Senator Kerry will no doubt turn the conversation to Afghanistan and his very recent trip, accompanied by some helpful statesman-like hemming and hawing. Maybe Nancy's nervous because she senses she's about to be cut into political ribbons by the harpies on the left unleashed by virtue of the President's abrupt flip-flop to their cause. It will be telling to see if she is defended by him now, if given the opportunity, or if instead he chooses remains silent. If it is silence, or less than serious and reasoned defense, listen then for the sound of knives being sharpened in the cellar; Nancy may be on her way out and the president free of one more thorn in his side. Irony or intention?

Update 26 April 2009:
Porter Goss, who was, in the fall of 2002, chairman of the House intelligence committee of which Ms. Pelosi was the ranking minority member, (and later Director of Central Intelligence), has established that the Congresswoman was in on the waterboarding from the very beginning. His piece in the Washington Post makes it very clear that she was, in fact, deeply involved and committed to the technique in the pursuit of information from the al Qaida operatives in CIA hands at the time. Barack Obama, back in Illinois was not, so his hands are clean.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The EPA Takes a Call from Obama's Science Officer

Presumably its ok for the government to deliberately fill the stratosphere with massive quantities of dust in order to "cool the planet" (forget about the Clean Air Act), but hey, its not okay for you to burn the toast. Down the road, these hyperventilating bureaucrats will be on your case making sure you get the opportunity to pay your fair share out-of-pocket for your own personal carbon "emissions". Just think of it as a sin tax to fund the syntax of post-modern existence. Life will be beautiful in the thrilling, new sustainable world that's out there somewhere beyond tomorrow; I can just feel it coming on, can't you? Of course you can. I do however, sense a troubling disturbance. For the "settled scientists" of man-made global warming worries:
Panic attacks are almost always associated with shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. When people feel short of breath, they often respond by hyperventilating, another common symptom of panic attacks. People hyperventilating exhale more carbon dioxide than they produce, thereby lowering carbon dioxide levels in the body. As carbon dioxide levels drop, several other changes in the body result in the lightheadedness and dizziness that often accompany panic attacks.*
You'd think a little more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be beneficial for some people. And that they'd be self-aware enough to recognize it.

*or maybe its just breathing abnormalities

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

No Representation Without Taxation?

What was once merely an outlandish disparity in numbers between those who benefit from U.S. income tax policy and those who actually pay the taxes, is now on its way to its largest and most disturbing level in history. So many voters today pay no income tax that there is little natural incentive within the electorate to keep the cost of government low, to set reasonable spending priorities or to vote for anyone other than a redistributionist Democrat. Rather than trumped-up publicity stunts, I hope that the Tea Party rallies tomorrow will shine a light on this problem above all others. In an article published yesterday in the Wall Street Journal Ari Fleischer, a former Bush press secretary writes:

According to the CBO, those who made less than $44,300 in 2001 — 60% of the country — paid a paltry 3.3% of all income taxes. By 2005, almost all of them were excused from paying any income tax. They paid less than 1% of the income tax burden. Their share shrank even when taking into account the payroll tax. In 2001, the bottom 60% paid 16.3% of all taxes; by 2005 their share was down to 14.3%. All the while, this large group of voters made 25.8% of the nation’s income.

When you make almost 26% of the income and you pay only 0.6% of the income tax, that’s a good deal, courtesy of those who do pay income taxes. For the bottom 40%, the redistribution deal is even better. In 2001, these 43 million Americans, who earn less than $30,500, made 13.5% of the nation’s income but paid no income tax. Instead, they received checks from their taxpaying neighbors worth $16.3 billion. By 2005, those checks totaled $33.3 billion.

Not that this is an entirely new phenomenon; however, the situation in which we find ourselves today, to a far greater extreme devalues work, undermines success, and is at bottom, fundamentally corrupt and debilitating. The pendulum has swung too far in a direction that can only lead to a self-perpetuating and thuggish majority, voting themselves no taxes, but only benefits to be paid for by the minority who are taxpayers.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

"in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog."

"The president's new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth's air. John Holdren told the Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort."

"It's got to be looked at," he said. "We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table.

Holdren outlined several "tipping points" involving global warming that could be fast approaching. Once such milestones are reached, such as complete loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic, it increases chances of "really intolerable consequences," he said.

Twice in a half-hour interview, Holdren compared global warming to being "in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog."

At first, Holdren characterized the potential need to technologically tinker with the climate as just his personal view. However, he went on to say he has raised it in administration discussions."

Living as we are in an era of mass psychosis, I shouldn't be surprised to learn that this kind of nonsense is being seriously discussed in the White House. Giddy with power, and out for a joyride in a hybrid with bad brakes, the Obama administration is accelerating into a foggy left turn.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Israeli Science Breakthrough Extracts Fuel from Water

What if they came for the carbon tax and no one paid? Enterprising men will always find a way to redefine the political playing field and send the politicians scrambling. The carbon tax juggernaut, now being eyed as the coming cash cow for financing an ever more bloated and intrusive government must surely, if there is any justice in the world, or any luck at all, sputter and die. And hopefully with it will go all of the other avatars of eco-fascist impulse.

An Israeli research team at the Weizmann Institute has found a promising way to convert water into its constituent oxygen and hydrogen parts that may make hydrogen fuel cells economical. The current technique for creating the hydrogen for fuel cells from water has required so much energy input, that hydrogen fuel cells are not now economical to operate as an everyday energy source. The Israeli scientists have devised a three stage process inspired by photosynthesis which actually utilizes light energy in its third stage.

Among the most important challenges facing science today is designing an efficient system for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. The ability to do so will introduce hydrogen into the market as a clean, sustainable fuel. But man-made systems for getting to the root of water that exist today are very inefficient and often require additional use of sacrificial chemical agents.

The Who - Shakin' All Over - Woodstock 1969

Worth listening to, if only for the final image of the slide show. For fans (like me) of the Who; a band I first saw in concert in 1970.

Friday, April 03, 2009

"Our Efforts to Control Climate Change"

President Obama, on April 2nd discussed his recent meeting with the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh. Responding to a young female Indian reporter's question on whether the U.S. was coordinating anti-terror strategies with the Indian state, the president instead took the opportunity to go on-and-on, teasing and wincingly patronizing the young reporter before getting around to the serious business of avoiding her question. Instead of combating real threats, high on the list of priorities he shared with the prime minister in his best Chicago-style spirit of mutuality, was, and I quote: "our efforts to control climate change". As an architect, I am keenly aware of the concept of climate control. Of course, when I think of "climate control" I am referring to mere interior climate control, a highly complex and often times convoluted set of engineering and user-feedback challenges that can take a year or even more to get right in a newly commissioned building. This president, on the other hand, envisions simpler causes and more direct effects on a far broader physical and political climate. A man who has been heard equating his own election to the presidency with coming return of the supposed man-caused swollen seas to their rightful shores, Mr. Obama intends to have his way at controlling the planetary climate, and his first step will be to control us, and all of our energy producing and consuming activities. One might go so far as to say he's got global ambitions.

So, I ask myself. How many kilowatts of energy are delivered to the earth's atmosphere, oceans and surface over the period of a year from the following sources: The sun. The earth's own mantle and core. The activities of humankind. What are the respective percentages? If the climate runs on energy, and it does, then to control the climate we must in some respect control the energy inputs into the climate system and the flux of that energy to such an extent that the effects are not just measurable and meaningful, but also beneficial. Without beneficial effects, the energy expended is wasted because control has not been achieved. If the percentage contributed by human activities is small to begin with, and I would think the order of magnitude is less than one percent, then we might be able to reduce the energy inputs into the climate by some fraction thereof. It might be said, however, that the problem is not the amount of energy that we are putting into the atmosphere but rather that we are changing the proportions of the gases in the atmosphere. By so doing, we are thereby causing more of the natural energy inputs into the climate system to be retained in the atmosphere and oceans over a longer period of time than would otherwise be the case, hideously distorting its otherwise ineffably and sublimely perfect and natural state. An arguable point in a world free from "acts of God".

Imagine for a moment, just for the heck of it, that all of the windmills in all the world, and all of the windmills yet to come, are operating in reverse, blowing like fans, so that instead of drawing energy from the atmosphere, as they now do, they are instead imparting energy into the moving air. What might the net effect be on the global climate? Would it be large and obvious over time? Or would it be miniscule, and difficult to observe the changes, let alone measure them? How much electrical energy would it take to accomplish such an enormous task? How much carbon? What an outlandish example, you say. President Obama, after all intends to control the energy in the climate not just by direct means by burning less fuel, but by indirect means. And the results will be measured indirectly, as well, such as by how many new government-subsidized "green" jobs he can claim his policies have produced. Direct measurements, such as temperatures over historical time and atmospheric and temperature data provided by paleoclimatology, not to mention sunspot energy and orbital cycles cannot be made sufficiently persuasive. Not if your purposes are control and "sustainability".

The provision of food, clothing and shelter for the human population, on an annual per capita basis, means that for each of us a certain amount of energy must be expended, and ejected into the climate system, in the form of heat, cooling, light, transport and utilities. Two of the by-products of this energy production are increased water vapor and carbon dioxide. Some of us on the planet cause more of this energy to be expended than others, of course. First World leisure economies come to mind. Stored carbon (oil, coal, wood) energy buried in the ground is a part of the earth and came from living things that lived and died in the past. Removing and releasing some of it from out of the earth and into the air is one of the costs of maintaining life. Remove and release a little more and you can buy safety and security, a little more yet and you can buy liberty and the luxury of virtue. Perhaps one might even find a direct correlation between increasing energy comsumption and one's ascent up the pyramid of Abraham Maslow's heirachy of needs. How many non-self-actualizeds working in the factories and stores, and on construction sites and farms does it take to produce the surplus that buys for our society the good offices of those with glorious visions?

Globalization is a process that began slowly and spontaneously many thousands of years ago through the course of human migrations, beginning in earnest only with the mastery of the Atlantic crossing by the Renaissance Europeans and the start of smokestack industries, mass production and mass communications in the 19th and twentieth centuries. In other words, modern globalization is carbon-based. Globalization occurs from the top down. The less carbon you release, the less global and more local you are likely to be. As a corollary, you are also more likely to be poorer. Wealth begets globalization. Poverty does not. For those for whom endless cultural striving for improvements in the human condition has produced wealth, security and comfort, globalization is a natural urge.

If carbon is taxed, then like all other taxes, a carbon tax will be levied unevenly, and capriciously. If your intent is the control of economic activity and hence the climate, then taxes are effective at making otherwise uneconomical activities "sustainable", as well as previously economical activities unsustainable. Might they then be a useful tool in order to dial-in and manage the various rates of globalization across the various regions? Maybe its time then for the developed (and taxable) regions of the world to let the Obamas of the world tie one hand behind their backs and knock them a peg or two down on Maslow's heirarchy. Then the game would be fairer.